Face Hacking or Face Tracking? New Projection Technology to Create Waves

By James Robert Shaw (The Wind up Geek)

SmapProjecting light onto other objects has been around for some time. What started as a simple way to show movies on a flat film screen has made way into installation art pieces. But now it is being used in a new way to put virtual makeup on people’s faces with the help of computers, 3D rendering and an array of light projectors. It is being called “Face Hacking,” and early demonstrations of this technology shows how light can be projected onto moving objects — in this video’s case, two human faces — and be updated fast enough to make it look like one person can transform into another. Just how it works is both entertaining and awe-inspiring.

Just as computer processing power have advanced in great leaps and bounds, the technology behind creating projected images will become smaller and more precise. Buildings can give way to rock concerts, but what if I told you we can now project onto something as small as the human face? Sounds hard to believe but that is now possible.

The micronization of LEDs have not yet reached the point of making handheld projectors feasible (a lot of these are required), but the devices currently available can do the job. The setup is still elaborate, but the possibilities of further developing the needed number of hardware devices into a matrix to use in a live stage show would create a whole new level of performance arts for the actors to work with. Would patrons of Japan’s Kabuki theatre reject such modern trickery used in an age-old tradition? Leading men can be altered through tricks of light to become women. Being that Japanese people are more open to technology than their North American counterparts, it would create a tasty subject for future Internet chat room debates.

On a Christmas episode of Fuji Television’s SMAP X SMAP, two members of the J-pop boy band SMAP (Shingo Katori and Tsuyoshi Kusanagi) were used to demonstrate just how close we are to the next level of using these type of “laser” projectors in an entertainment venue. Both members had little round nodules placed at strategic points on their face to allow for a motion-tracking software program to follow their movement and adjust for the beams of light to “colour” their face in a wide-variety of ways. In one moment they would look like a Transformer and in another, they are cat-like aliens in disguise. Shingo and Tsuyoshi-san wore real make-up to help highlight their facial structures and to act like a reflective canvas medium for the lights to sculpt their faces into truly alien forms. To note, they had to close their eyes during the demonstration.

There are still some kinks to work out. The members of SMAP had to remain seated and although they could slowly move their heads, any sudden movements caused the image being projected to fall out of sync. In due time, as computer processing power speeds up, the rendering of photo-realistic effects onto a stage performer can change the face of theater forever.


Video Credit: YouTube user Time Machine

Author: James Robert Shaw

Making a comeback.

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